One of the hardest things about being "not of The Body" when it comes to the Christmas season is feeling like you constantly have to explain why you're not as hap-hap-happy as everybody else is this time of year. It doesn't matter that you -- by which I mean I, of course -- have already explained it; you (I) still feel misunderstood and somehow obligated to keep on trying to explain until you (I) get through to your (my) Christmas-loving loved ones. Okay, sure, you (I) have explained your (my) lingering childhood traumas, and everybody gets that and has expressed sympathy and such, but maybe there's still the matter of your (my) performance anxiety (for lack of a better expression) when it comes to gifts, or the myriad ways in which traditional holiday activities fail to generate that warm glow in the dessicated hearts of we sad, emotionally dead grinchy types.
Thankfully, there are articulate people out there who share my feelings, and from whom I can borrow for illustration purposes. Case in point: Monica Bielanko, a.k.a. The Girl Who, a fellow Salt Laker who writes sharp, funny, profane, often painfully honest blog entries about, well, everything. And I do mean everything. Her blog is not for the faint-hearted, as when she's discussing the physical discomforts that accompany pregnancy, for example. I have trouble relating to those entries, obviously (although I still enjoy reading them), but today's post really could have been written by myself, we're so simpatico on this Christmas stuff:
...for me, Christmas feels like I've accepted a part-time job that begins right after Thanksgiving and ends on New Year's Day. Buying, wrapping, shipping, keeping up with expectations. God forbid some well-meaning acquaintance gifts you with a little something you weren't expecting. MUST RECIPROCATE! Not only do I feel pressure to make each Christmas The Best Christmas Ever! but the whole spending money thing just makes me sick.
And it isn't just buying the gifts that weighs heavy. I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I know people want to get me something I like but even that feels like a job. Like, if I don't list items then I'm not helping you out? Who feels comfortable listing off items they want/need? I feel like I'm adding to someone else's Christmas stress. And is that what Christmas has come to? Your loved ones call and you tell them what you want and that's it? This exchange of Christmas commodities?
Keeping up with expectations. God, that one turn of phrase is so poignant for me. I think maybe that's the key to my holiday pathology, more than childhood damage, more than any philosophical high-mindedness about consumerism or personal weirdness about the retail industry blurring the seasons by pushing Christmas buying earlier and earlier into the year. What it really comes down to for me is the fear of disappointing somebody I love, either because I get them the wrong thing (or I don't get them anything at all) or because I don't unequivocally love something they've gotten me (I have an incredibly difficult time taking things back, no matter that I already have twelve of them or whatever). Expectations lead to fear of disappointment, fear of disappointment leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to unhappiness... powerful with the Dark Side is the Christmas season. At least for me.
This year has been a little better than the last several, though. That's really due to my lovely Girlfriend making an admirable effort to understand my feelings and keep the scheduling under control, and I really, sincerely thank her for that. But even when we're not overbooking our social calendar, nothing ever seems to make a dent in the damn anxiety...
Anyhow, go read the rest of Monica's take on all this. As I said, she really tells it like it is, while acknowledging that how it is, isn't necessarily how we scrooges want it to be.
ED. NOTE: Incidentally, that "not of The Body" thing is a Star Trek reference, just in case it went over your head. Specifically, it's a reference to the classic episode "Return of the Archons," which was the first of many in which Captain Kirk destroys a computer that has ruled over a stable but stagnant society for centuries. Dang computers, anyhow.